ABCD event Birmingham 24th May Hodgehill Church
The day started with the vicar at Hodgehill holding a few minutes silence to remember those lost and injured in Manchester. A candle was lit surrounded by rocks speaking of hope, friendship, compassion, trust.
“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” - Chinese proverb
Cormac Russel followed this by asking: How can we help suffering find meaning and release in community?
“When people don't know where to put their suffering it turns to violence”
The church at Hodgehill extends far beyond its walls and confesses that it now ‘obsessively’ practices Asset Based Community Development. We heard stories from two community members in Hodgehill. The first a lady who has set up ‘Embrace’ an Autism support group after she was diagnosed four years ago, the second a young girl who was changing the definition of ‘trouble-maker’ to one that was powerful and positive.
Keynote speaker Pastor Paul Bartlett spoke about the pride he felt when people in the community didn't realise that the community space they used regularly was also a church! He asked why it is seen as OK that some of the most beautiful and precious community resources are only full and ‘happening’ on a Sunday? Paul is the National Community Engagement leader of Australian Christian Churches.
He believed in reversing the logic and practice of many of our churches and religious buildings.
Invite the community in
Include the community
Value the community
Know the community
Be known to the community
Be valued in the community
Be included in the community
Be invited into the community
He also brought along a giraffe called jerry, a trophy for a well known international award called 'Sticking your neck out for the community’. Jerry is a bit of a celebrity in Paul's community and everyone wants their picture taken with him, so I nabbed a shot…
Paul would love to do a podcast and chat about his book "Thank God it's Monday! Sunday's not enough!" and what an amazing community he is part of in Australia ‘where the sea meets the mountains’.
Many rich conversations were had throughout the day, prompted by a set of questions all with the strict instruction "No fixing, no saving, no advising, and no rescuing".
Here are a few sound bites from the day, to give you a flavour.
“You don't need a referral form to be part of the community!” – Exclusively Inclusive
“If you breathe - you're in!”
"Services need to create wide open doors, so that you can get into services when you need it and then get out as soon as they can!"
"On the political right people are seen to need policing, whilst on the left people are seen to need rescuing. On both sides, the conversation needs to change from you're needy to you're needed"
What can we do together, that we can't do apart?
After 3pm a large group stayed on to discuss, what do we want this network to be? Who is willing to contribute to it and how? Three main areas were focused on 1) Shared learning 2) Curating Stories - a national database to draw upon 3) Leadership - how can we have a voice, and support others to have a voice?
If you feel you have something you'd like to contribute to this network, whether it falls into one of these categories or outside, or whether you'd just like to find out more... check out the ABCD learning commons website.
You will find a continuation of these discussions, useful resources and support with community building practice via online forums and story sharing. Here are a few quotes and themes to give you taste of the discussion.
“We are working with people all around us who need to have solutions, whether those solutions work or not, in order to survive in their positions.”
“It's one thing being uncertain on your own, another thing being uncertain together.”
“This event has uplifted me, hearing other people's challenges I realise I'm not alone. I know I'm on the right track.”
How do we ensure the the people and communities which the stories belong to are at the forefront of the telling and distribution of their stories?
People are sick and tired of the mass media pretending to be the voice of the local people and taking away their right to tell their own story.
Leadership and Politicisation
“How can we shift the narrative away from institutional reform? It's not about saving the system, it's about saving people from the system!”
How can we ensure that the national movement doesn't become another agenda pushed on communities? For many communities, their agenda is to devote their time and energy to a movement at a local level. That agenda mustn't be diluted.